Achieving LGBT Equality Through Litigation, Legislation, Policy, and Public Education

Issues: Sports

NCLR’s Sports Project aims to level the playing field for LGBT players and coaches. More than 30 years ago, Title IX changed athletics forever by requiring that women and girls have equal access to sporting and athletic opportunities. Today NCLR's advocacy, public education, and high-profile cases have the potential to equalize the treatment of LGBT athletes in this century. We seek nothing less than a world in which openly LGBT sports figures can be hailed as champions and role models at every level of competition.

news & opinion

Press Release

Sports Leaders Gather to Tackle Anti-LGBT Bias in Athletics
6.05.13—An alliance of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) sports leaders from across the country has announced the second annual Nike LGBT Sports Summit, set for June 12-15 in Portland, Ore. The Sports Summit will bring together college and professional athletes, coaches, athletic administrators, political figures, LGBT advocates and sports organizations to combat anti-LGBT bias in sports.

Press Release

Groundbreaking Nike LGBT Sports Summit Takes on Bullying, Homophobia and Transphobia in Sports
6.18.12—Many of the nation’s top lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer sports leaders joined Nike representatives at Nike World Headquarters for the first-ever Nike LGBT Sports Summit to combat bullying and anti-LGBTQ bias and discrimination in sports. Advocates and organizations pooled their expertise and strengths over the last four days—June 14 to June 17—to develop a unified plan to end harassment and discrimination against LGBTQ athletes and coaches in kindergarten through high school, college, recreational sports, and professional sports.

Press Release

Outsports Names NCLR Sports Project Director Helen Carroll and GLSEN’s Pat Griffin “Persons of the Year” for 2011
1.05.12—National Center for Lesbian Rights’ Sports Project Director Helen Carroll and Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s Changing the Game Project Director Pat Griffin have been named by Outsports readers as the 2011 “Persons of the Year.”

Press Release

Parties Settle Case Challenging Disqualification of Bisexual Players’ Team At 2008 Gay Softball World Series
11.28.11—The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), K&L Gates LLP, and the North American Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance (NAGAAA) have negotiated a settlement in a case brought against NAGAAA by three bisexual softball players whose team was disqualified from competition following a protest hearing at the 2008 Gay Softball World Series in Seattle.

Press Release

NCLR Applauds New NCAA Inclusion Policy Benefitting Transgender Student Athletes
09.12.11—The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) last week announced that it has approved an important policy that clarifies opportunities for transgender student athletes to participate on college athletic teams in accordance with their gender identity.

from the docket

Victory/Settlement! (Washington)

Steven Apilado, et al. v. North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association
All sports leagues, including leagues organized within the LGBT community, should be about fair play, diversity, and inclusion. Unfortunately, when NCLR clients Steven Apilado, LaRon Charles, and Jon Russ traveled with their softball team to the 2008 Gay Softball World Series in Seattle, they encountered discrimination, hostility, and suspicion. Their team, D2, had been playing together in the San Francisco Gay Softball League for years. In 2008, they had practiced more than ever in the hopes of winning the World Series, and they made it all the way to the championship game.

Victory! (California)

Sulpizio v. Mesa Community College 
Lorri Sulpizio was the Head Women’s Basketball Coach at San Diego Mesa College, and her domestic partner, Cathy Bass, assisted the team and served as the team’s Director of Basketball Operations for over eight years. Despite Sulpizio’s and Bass’s dedication and demonstrated track record of success leading the women’s basketball program at the community college, Mesa officials discharged both coaches at the end of the 2007 academic year after Coach Sulpizio repeatedly advocated for equal treatment of female student-athletes and female faculty, and following publication in a local paper of an article identifying Sulpizio and Bass as domestic partners.


Victory! (Pennsylvania)

Jennifer Harris v. Maureen Portland, Penn State University, and Timothy Curley
NCLR client Jennifer Harris reached a settlement with Penn State and its women's basketball coach Rene Portland and athletic director Tim Curley in a groundbreaking lawsuit. Harris had alleged discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and invasion of privacy.

program highlights

Athletes Are Athletes blog

The Athletes Are Athletes blog was designed as a follow-up resource for the January 14, 2010 panel for the 2010 NCAA National Convention in Atlanta on Cross Campus Engagement Ensuring Fair Treatment of LGBT Student-Athletes: Issues and Resources. The moderator was Liane Summerfield, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs at Marymount University and the panelists were Pat Griffin, Director of It Takes A Team! Education Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Issues in Sport, Laurie Priest, Chair of Physical Education and Director of Athletics at Mount Holyoke College in, Helen Carroll, Director of NCLR's Sports Project, Ted Rypka, Director of Sports Media for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), and Mark Schuster, Senior Dean of Students at Rutgers-New Brunswick-Piscataway.

National Association of Collegiate Women Athletic Administrators 2009

On October 12th, 2009 in Denver, Colorado at the NACWAA National Conference, with 250 top women leaders in the athletic world in attendance, Helen Carroll, Director of the NCLR Sports Project, and Pat Griffin, Director of It Takes a Team! Education Campaign for LGBT Issues in Sport (ITAT), presented best practices and model policies from the NCLR-ITAT joint publication, "The Positive Approach: Eliminating Negative Recruiting Based on Actual or Perceived Sexual Orientation" in a two hour session. Negative recruiting refers to the practice of playing on homophobic stereotypes to deter recruits from attending rival athletic programs by alleging or implying that a rival coach or team members are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Many conference commissioners were present and interested in further using this tool to help eliminate this destructive practice.

The presentation was conducted in a roundtable format with several rotations. Lively discussion focused around how to use this report to make the most effective change for people in sport. The athletic directors received a copy of the report, who promised to discuss the report with at least one person that can assist in moving to the next step of having conference offices adopt and/or integrate the model policy into their existing policies on negative recruiting.

Title IX: 37 Years Later, We Still Have a Way to Go

On Oct. 5, 2009, in a talk organized by the National Women's Political Caucus Helen Carroll, NCLR's Sports Project Director, and Diane Milutinovich addressed an audience of men and women in a program titled: Title IX. 37 Years Later, We Still Have a Way to Go. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is the landmark legislation that bans sex discrimination in schools, whether it be in academics or athletics.

Milutinovich is the athletic administrator who brought a gender discrimination suit against California State University-Fresno and after a 5 year battle, settled that suit for 3.5 million dollars. Two of her colleagues, Coaches Stacy Johnson-Klein and Linda Vivas, also brought Title IX discrimination/retaliation suits against California State University-Fresno and were awarded 9 million and 6 million, respectively.

Helen and Diane spoke of the history of Title IX, the need to teach young women about Title IX and how the struggle continues. Milutinovich gave an account of the experiences she and her colleagues had to endure to stand up to the university, while Carroll gave a background lesson in how retaliation based on gender and actual or perceived sexual orientation effects all athletes and the entire athletic department.

A discussion followed and topics covered included how to teach young women to not be intimidated by the word 'lesbian' and how to become more active in the fight for achieving equality with Title IX.

publications & downloads

On the Team: Equal Opportunities for Transgender Student Athletes

This groundbreaking publication is the first ever to thoroughly address the complete integration of transgender student athletes within high school and collegiate athletic programs. It provides comprehensive model policies and a framework for athletic leaders to ensure equal access to school athletics for transgender students.
read the report here (pdf)

The Positive Approach: Recognizing, Challenging, and Eliminating Negative Recruiting Based on Actual or Perceived Sexual Orientation

This publication provides a comprehensive analysis of negative recruiting based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, and recommends practices and policies to eliminate it. Negative recruiting refers to the practice of playing on homophobic stereotypes to deter recruits from attending rival athletic programs by alleging or implying that a rival coach or team members are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Because sexual orientation is irrelevant to coaching, leadership, or athletic abilities, the actual or perceived sexual orientation of any coach or player should not be part of the recruiting process.
read the report here (pdf)

NCAA News: Panel tackles sexual-orientation issues

'Think Tank' considers ways to deter negative recruiting A group of about 30 NCAA coaches, administrators and student-athletes joined representatives from the National Center for Lesbian Rights in examining issues related to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in intercollegiate athletics during the first National Center for Lesbian Rights Sports Project Think Tank.

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